Oliver #2 picks up two years after the events of our last issue. The titular character continues growing at an accelerated rate, now nearly an adult, and he’s eager to join Prospero and the others at work to earn his keep. However, the government becomes aware that there’s a “hybrid” boy loose in London, and by the issue’s end, Oliver learns about who—and what—he really is.
The book continues to follow the loose concept of Oliver Twist, but with a decidedly unique take on the story. Oliver #2 hinges around Dickens’s iconic scene in which Oliver asks Mr. Bumble for a second helping of gruel. Only this time, the portly official is replaced by a muscle-bound, gas mask-wearing monster with a shotgun.
There’s a lot more world building going on here, but Gary Whitta does a great job of keeping things compelling in this issue, laying things out in well-plotted narrative form. We’re able to explore more of the world, learning about it as Oliver does. We also get glimpses of the world outside London, how it operates, and the general attitude toward the ex-soldiers. This helps ground us in the comic’s environs and draws us deeper into the story.
Like the original, there’s no ambiguity about the moral implications at play here. Oliver #2 swaps the hellish conditions of a Victorian-era poorhouse for a smoke-filled factory floor. The men who call London home are treated like dangerous criminals, and their lives can be snuffed-out in a brutal manner for even a minor offense. And, although they’re not children as in the original novel, there are nods to the men’s status as victims. As one quips after being told he and his brothers should have been shot after the war, “Maybe you shouldn’t have created us…”
Darick Robertson’s designs are once again strong in Oliver #2. Despite the grounded, realistic style of the work, he manages to draw incredibly-expressive faces and gestures from the characters.
Robertson’s work serves the story well, and provides some striking panels here and there. That said, it is not exceptionally dynamic. He cleanly divides most of the pages into horizontal strips, so the pages flow evenly. However, the result is that none of the pages really stand out. It’s good work, but doesn’t really deliver the “wow” factor, as Robertson has demonstrated he can do with sci-fi settings.
Oliver #2 is a good next installment in this latest Dickensian adaptation. Whitta develops the story, hitting the beats of the original, but clearly making it his own. Recommended.